I heard what seemed to be Louise's scream coming from the direction of the carriage. When I turned around, I saw Louise being kicked by the man.
I intervened, stepping in front of the man who was about to kick Louise again. Perhaps my drawn sword scared him, the man took a step back.
"I-I'll thank you for helping me, but this girl is my slave. I told her to be a decoy, but she tried to escape. Please don't interfere with her training."
Lidell and the Bearded Guy frowned.
There were slaves in the original world too. The further back you go in history, the more common it becomes. So it's not surprising that there are slaves in this world. However, I am a person from the modern era, and while I can understand it, I can't accept it. But judging from Lidell and the Bearded Guy's reactions, there must be some reason behind this man's words.
Certainly, I understand that it's impossible to help everyone individually. It would take an unimaginable amount of time to eradicate slavery, given that it's integrated into the social structure. So I don't intend to save everyone. I only want to save Louise. I owe her my life, and there's no reason for me not to repay that debt here.
However, I don't think this man will stop easily. So we'll have to resort to a reasonable approach as well.
"I got involved because of you guys."
I deliberately adopt a disgruntled attitude, relying on the intimidation of the Bearded Guy. Surely, from the opponent's perspective, they wouldn't feel threatened by someone like me who is not even half their age.
"Ah, ah, thanks for saving me. But..."
"You said you would thank us for saving your life right?."
I interrupt the man's words and convey our demand.
"Even if you call it thank, as you can see, my cargo is in terrible condition, the cart is broken, and the horse is dead. We've suffered significant losses too."
"That's your problem. It has nothing to do with me. You were attacked by those monsters, two of them even. Just being alive is a huge profit. I demand a gold coin as thanks and compensation."
To be honest, I have no idea about the customary amount for gratitude, so I came up with it on the spot. A gold coin is an amount that can cover a year's worth of staying at an inn. I think it's cheap as compensation for a life, but let's see how the man takes it.
"Don't be stupid! That would bankrupt me!"
"Isn't your life worth even a single gold coin? Then, there is an equivalent value."
"Even if you say 'equivalent'..."
The man seemed to ponder, realizing that he might not be as cheap as he initially thought. If I were just a child, he might have tried to deceive me with some excuses, but behind me, I have Bearded Guy with the same disgruntled expression on their faces. The man witnessed the Bearded Guy defeating that giant bear. He probably didn't want to provoke them unnecessarily.
"If you have nothing else, then free the girl from slavery."
"Huh?... If she's that useless, I'll give her to you as thanks. Just wait a moment."
After contemplating for a while, the man accepted my offer. He search something through the cargo of the carriage and brought back a piece of parchment.
"Take this to the slave trader and make a new contract. Hey, you, go with this man."
I received the parchment. As usual, I couldn't read the writing.
The man placed his hand on the mark floating above Louise's neck and muttered something, then pushed Louise towards me. I felt frustrated by his treatment, but for now, Louise comes first.
"It's okay now. We've defeated the giant bear, so rest assured. Come with me."
Louise was still trembling in fear, but I took her hand and led her back to the guys.
I had no obligation to clean up the mess with the carriage. The man seemed like he wanted help, but perhaps he thought that if he asked for it, he would be demanded compensation, so he didn't say anything.
It's not like I would hesitate to lend a hand if he was in trouble. But the initial impression he had previously was bad. If he didn't say anything, I had no intention on helping.
"Sorry for acting on my own."
I felt bad for negotiating without consulting them. It wasn't just me who helped the man, but also Lidell and the Bearded Guy.
"Well, it's fine. There's no need to argue. But don't forget, helping her means more than just freeing her from that man."
Of course, I intended to escort her properly to the town of Grimoire.
"In that case, when we get back to town, let's treat ourselves to a feast with the money we earned."
"Yeah, count on it."
The Bearded Guy didn't seem particularly bothered. In fact, they seemed to have a sense of satisfaction. It could be that I was the one conveniently taking credit for everything. Lidell also didn't seem care about it. I should buy a replacement shield for Lidell since it broked protecting me.
After apologizing for my actions, I faced Louise and gently lifted her hood.
"Louise, I'm glad you're not hurt."
I genuinely felt relieved that Louise wasn't injured. Although the fear of the giant bear still lingered in her heart, she would eventually calm down.
Louise was the first person I meet after arriving in this world. She was a cute girl with a chestnut-colored short bob hairstyle, round and deep green colored eyes. She had a delicate beauty with a hint of innocence.
When I first saw her, I thought she had fair skin, but now she appeared slightly pale, almost like she lacked nourishment. It didn't seem to be solely because of fear. She had her protective clothing but, she still looked frail. I was certain that something had happened to Louise during these three weeks.
After a while, Louise seemed to regain some composure. She noticed my hand holding hers and turned her face towards me. Although our time together from when I first met her until now was less than half a day, for Louise, who had been watching over me for nearly two days without waking up, I believe I was the most familiar person in this group. I hoped that familiarity would bring her some comfort.
I removed Louise's hood, revealing her beautiful face that his covered with dirt. Her cuteness was overshadowed by a general sense of dirtiness. I used a towel dampened with water from my canteen to wipe away the dust on her face. As I did so, she stiffened as if scared of something. That reaction, resembling someone who had been subjected to violence on a daily basis, filled me with anger towards that man.
"Louise, you're safe now, so don't be afraid me." I reassured her gently as I slowly wiped away the dust. She seemed to find some comfort in that, as tears welled up in her eyes trickling down her cheeks. I wiped away her tears as well.
Afterward, I had Louise sit down on the grassy field while Momo brought us some warm tea. It was a homemade chamomile tea from the innkeeper, known for its soothing effects. Louise took the cup and savored the warmth, slowly letting it slide down her throat.
"Thank you...," she murmured.
"Same to you, Louise. I'm just glad you're safe," I replied, feeling grateful to everyone for their presence here today.
After Louise had calmed down, we had Momo retrieve the two giant bears, and we headed back to the town of Grimoire.
During the journey back to Grimoire, I pondered how much I should ask into Louise's circumstances. All I knew so far was that she had been away from the town of Grimoire and had been enslaved by that man. However, I refrained from asking her anything until we reached the city.
Just like when we first arrived, we made a camp along the way, and we reached Grimoire the next day afternoon. The original plan was to spend some time tracking down the giant bears, assuming they had moved away from the scene, which would have taken around four to five days round trip. However, luckily—or perhaps due to the fact that we promptly defeated them upon arrival—we were able to complete the request in just three days.
While the bounty from the Adventurers Guild was initially only for the smaller giant bears, we also received a special reward for the unexpected task of defeating the two giant bears. By paying the reward, the Adventurers Guild also intended to apologize for the inaccurate information they had.
The materials from the two giant bears, including their meat, fur, and magic stones, were purchased for 80 silver coins and 120 silver coins, respectively. If we had managed to retrieve the fur, it would have been valued at 150 silver coins. It was the first time I encountered silver coins as a unit of currency.
When converted to copper coins, those amounts would be 8,000 and 12,000, respectively. Adding the loot and the reward for the quest.
Initially, we had planned to split 2,400 copper coins between the two of us, but due to the unexpected situation, we ended up earning a significant amount. We decided to divide the earnings based on the giant bears we each defeated, so Lidell and I received 4,000 copper coins each. It was an income that surpassed what an F-rank adventurer would typically earn in a month.
By completing this quest, I also achieved E-rank as an adventurer, and the color of my special magic crystal turned white. Of course, Lidell, who had been accompanying me throughout, had the same result.
"What's wrong, Lidell?"
Lidell tilted her head in response to achieving E-rank as an adventurer.
"I thought the rank advancement would take longer than it did."
It seemed that reaching E-rank in less than a month was considered fast.
"Maybe because we're already in trouble whem defeating the giant bears, so it made a significant contribution to the increase in my contribution points."
"Well, it's surprising, to say the least."
When we defeated the smaller giant bear, the color of the special magic crystal changed instantly. According to what the guild receptionist told us, defeating strong monsters results in a greater change in the crystal's color, so it doesn't seem abnormal.
Afterward, we went to the armor shop and purchased a new shield for Lidell. It was a lighter and more durable shield than before, costing 2,000 copper coins. Lidell offered to pay half, but since his shield also serves to protect me, I accepted his offer. Even after the purchase, I still had nearly 4,000 copper coins remaining in terms of my current funds.
Finally, as promised, we treated the Bearded Guy Party to a dinner.
"Hey, hold on! You're eating too much! Show some restraint!"
"What restraint? You're young, so eat and drink as much as you want, Akito!"
"Well, I can't drink alcohol!"
"That's even more reason for you to drink!"
Without any hesitation, the Bearded Guy enjoyed their food and drinks, and the total cost of the meal came to 150 copper coins. But I think it's a good thing to treat ourselves to delicious food and congratulate each other after completing a big job.
To be honest, I hardly had slept last night. As the excitement of defeating the giant bear subsided, the fear grew stronger, as I fall asleep I will wake up soon after, because nightmares.
It wasn't just me; even the experienced Bearded Guy, though they decided to not say anything, seemed to experience something similar. That's why once we entered the reassuring town, we ate to forget, and then drank until we were drunk. I had always thought that the Bearded Guy drank a lot, but perhaps it's something they need.
After Me and Lidell enjoy ourselves to our heart's content, the Bearded Guy were already drunk, even though the sun hadn't set yet. The tavern owner graciously took care of everything, as it was something they were used to, so we thanked them and left. Lidell seemed tired as well, so he said he would go home and rest, and we parted ways there.
And so the issue I had been wanting to ask about finally came.
"You don't have a place to go back to?"
I had intended to escort Louise to her home, but she told me that she no longer lived in that house.
I didn't know what to say to Louise, who was hunched over and quietly crying. It would be easier if she were crying and screaming, letting her emotions flow freely like a younger sister. For now, I decided to remain silent and wait. Luckily, there weren't many people by the riverside, and we had plenty of time.
"That house is no longer my home..."
After about ten minutes, Louise started speaking.
Three years ago, Louise lost her parents and had been living alone ever since. However, she couldn't afford to pay the taxes, and as a result, her house was seized due to tax delinquency.
"But that man paid off the remaining amount for me, so I was able to avoid becoming a criminal slave."
If Louise had rejected that man's offer, she would have become a criminal slave instead of a regular slave. It seemed that she had no choice in the matter.
I didn't even know there were different types of slaves. I had heard stories that there were even advanced slaves who will be embodied with loyalty and would never betray their masters.
Because of that, everytime when a slave disobey their master, they would be punished as advanced slaves. However, it seems that's not the case in nobles. Nobles are trusted simply because they are nobles... or because of their title, and they don't use advanced slaves. Most people used advance slave are some successful merchants only.
"Don't you have any relatives?"
Louise shakes her head.
"I don't remember much from when I was young, but it seems my parents came from a neighboring country. There's no one here I can rely on..."
Louise only has trivial belongings, no money, no place to live, and no one to rely on. In other words, she doesn't have a place to rest tonight or food to eat tomorrow.
The Bearded Guy said it at that time. Helping her doesn't just mean freeing her from that man. I had thought that escorting her safely to the town of Grimoire was enough, but I realize now that I did something I didn't understand .
The Bearded Guy understands her situation based on Louise's circumstances, which is why they warned me about it. But I didn't notice it at all.
However, now that I understand, there's only one thing to do: support Louise until she can become self-reliant.
I, who couldn't do anything before, have been supported by Lidell and no longer have to worry about my basic needs. Now it's my turn to act for Louise's sake. However, it's important to listen to Louise's thoughts, not to force her and teach herself how to survive.
For now, the immediate problem is finding a place to sleep tonight.
"Louise, let's get a room at the inn where I'm staying tonight. We can think about tomorrow's situation calmly."
"But I have nothing to offer in return. I'll manage to find a place to rest somehow."
"You have nowhere to go, right?"
"Well... that's true, but you've already done so much by rescuing me from slavery."
"When Louise helped me, was I a burden?"
"No! Not at all!"
Louise lowers her head, as if ashamed of raising her voice.
"Louise, you saved my life. You shouldn't think helping is a burden."
I'm still pondering what would be the best course of action.
I had planned to rent another room, but the conversation doesn't progress because Louise is being too reserved about the extra cost of accommodation.
"In that case, sharing the same room should be fine, right?"
Currently, I have a single room, but we can say it was a double room. It will be cheaper than getting two separate rooms, and I have enough money.
Louise's eyes widen for a moment, but she quietly agrees with a small "yes," and we manage to overcome the immediate problem.
As a fifteen-year-old who has entered adolescence, the idea of staying in the same room with a cute girl makes my heart race. Well, since there are three of us, it should be fine... I hope. Although I'm not sure if Louise can see Momo or not.
Afterward, I ask the inn master and asked for bigger room instead and settle ourselves down. We don't have much luggage, and even if we did, Momo is taking care of it, so there's no need to move anything. It's all pretty straightforward.
Now, the question is whether I can hide Momo's presence while sharing the same room... Actually, hiding Momo seems inconvenient in many ways.
While contemplating such things in the room, A quick solution suddenly helped me regarding Momo.
"Is it possible that you're a Brownie?"
"Huh,you can see her?"
I had asked Momo to hide from anyone other than me... No, that's not right. I had asked her to hide when we were outside. But now we're in the inn room, there's no need to hide. Besides, only a limited number of people can see Brownies, and it seems Louise is one of them.
"Yes. It's a bit different from what I imagined, but I noticed it from the leaves growing on her head."
Well, if she can see Momo, things become easier. We just need to share the secret.
"Please call her Momo. You're the first person I've met who can see her, besides me. Lidell can't see her after all."
"I may not be able to see all spirits, but it seems I can see spirits. I have encountered them a few times in the past."
On the contrary, besides Momo, I haven't seen any other spirits yet. In the context of my original world, there might be spirits like the Fire spirit Ifrit or the Air spirit Sylph.
I give Momo a fruit that looks like an apple. It's a delicious fruit filled with sweet juices. Thanks to Momo, who helped carry the giant bear, I earned a lot of money, so this is a reward. Momo eats it crunchily with a smile, just like a squirrel.
"I'm always grateful for Momo's help."
"It seems you're quite favored by your master." Louise said with to Momo.
Master? Wait, what?
There's something weird pleasure comes about that, but I warn myself that getting involved in that kind of mindset would be dangerous.
"Please refrain from calling me 'master.' I can't stand being called that."
"Huh, but... Is Akito-sama not appropriate?"
"There's no need for honorifics and 'sama' either."
"I understand that I'm a slave, so I won't disrespect, Akito-sama."
Does she have the pride of a slave?
For me, Louise is a person who saved my life, not a slave. Well, I'll endure it until tomorrow when I meet the slave trader and free her.
"Well, I'll free you tomorrow, so call me whatever you want tonight."
Upon hearing that, Louise suddenly lowered her head, as if lost in thought, and then she bowed and started trembling.
So, there's also bowing in this world... No, wait!
"What?! Hey, what's wrong all of a sudden?!"
"Please, don't abandon me. I beg you, I'll do anything, please!"
I'd rather you not say something like "I'll do anything" while we're alone in a room. It could trigger average teenage emotions.
"I already said, as benefactor, I won't abandon you! I'm going to support you and help you until you can find a proper job to live on. Don't worry, I'll take responsibility since I helped you to my own accord."
Yes, I helped her on my own accord. Louise didn't ask for help. I took it upon myself to help her.
Despite saying that I'll free her tomorrow and she can do as she please, it's only natural for her to feel anxious when she has no place to sleep or food to eat.
That detestable man, even though he was unpleasant, as long as Louise stayed with him, she was guaranteed a place to sleep and something to eat. She didn't have to worry about those basic needs. But by selfishly helping her and casually saying I'll free her, maybe she thought it was like abandoning her, maybe I've hurt her deeply.
"I'm sorry, Louise."
I lift Louise up from bowing and hold her head against my chest. I feel sorry making Louise worry.
"Please, don't free me. Let me remain as a slave."
Our eyes meet as Louise peeks up from below. Her pleading eyes are heartbreaking. She cowers in my arms, showing her fear.
"I'm an adventurer, and if we stay together, you'll experience scary situations like the one before."
"Even so, please... please let me stay with you."
Perhaps her strong will, forged from living alone after losing her parents, has been broken under that man's influence. Her desire to depend on someone is stronger now, and it seems like she can't spare any thoughts for anything else.
Having jumped into this world with the intention of saving Lysette, I now realize how difficult it is to save someone.
"In that case, this is a important matter. I'll discuss it properly with guys and come back to you, so please wait for a while."
I quickly left the room to consult with Lidell.
Though it's already getting dark, it's not too late. More importantly, I can't bear to let Louise wait in her current anxious state for a whole night.
I sprint with all my might towards Lidell's residence. It's only about a five-minute distance from the inn, but the streets are crowded at this peak hour, making it harder to move.
After taking more time than usual, I finally arrive at the Ardith, the Baron's estate, which serves as Lidell's residence. Although it's called an estate, it's about ten times the size of my former home in the previous world... By the way, I heard that their main estate is located in the capital.
Lidell chose to live in this separate estate in the town of Grimoire because he believed it was ideal for gaining practical combat experience, given its proximity to the Kasion Forest.
When I started hunting monsters, I used to sell my spoils through Lidell's estate, which led to becoming acquainted with the gatekeeper. When I urgently requested to be relayed to Lidell, he kindly sent a messenger to inform him.
After a while, Lidell finally came to the estate. He's not wearing his usual combat attire but a casual outfit consisting of a white blouse and blue pants. Looking at him like this, Lidell does indeed give off an aristocratic or gentlemanly vibe. He has a composed aura that seems older than his age, and he doesn't appear to be someone who engages in rough tasks like monster hunting. If he were to walk out into the night, he would attract attention from a completely different crowd.
Then Lidell guided me to a garden located in a separate building within the estate.
"So, Akito didn't notice after all," Lidell remarks.
It seems that Lidell had indeed been aware of Louise's circumstances.
"What do you want to do about it, Akito?" he asks.
"First, I want to free her from slavery. Then, eventually, I plan to leave this town, but before that, I want to support Louise so that she can become independent," I explain.
"Do you have any specific ideas?" Lidell asked.
"Louise can use healing magic. I was wondering if there's any place like a hospital where she could work and live," I suggest.
"I see. It's rare for a commoner to be capable of dispelling magic seals...," Lidell muses, assuming his usual pose. He interlaces his fingers and brings only his left hand up to his mouth.
"This is just my thought, but..." he begins.
"I came here to consult with you, so please go ahead and tell me," I reply.
"First of all, it might be better to reconsider freeing her from slavery," he suggests.
Huh? Is it already a bad idea from the start?
"The reason is that a child without any family ties who is freed from slavery is likely to become enslaved by someone else again soon. It's difficult for a child to survive on their own," Lidell explains.
Louise became a slave because she couldn't live on her own.
"Akito always says it's thanks to me, but that's not true. Akito is more than capable of fighting against monsters. There are hardly any children of the same age who can fight like you do. You're amazing, considering it's your first time and you haven't had any prior training," Lidell praises.
I didn't think I was valued that much. I believe that I can fight against monsters because Lidell is with me. It feels good to be told that I'm special by someone like Lidell.
"A child who can't make a living on their own ultimately ends up relying on some adult. Do you have the time to find someone reliable whom you can trust?" Lidell asks.
It would be counterproductive to free Louise from slavery only for her to become someone else's slave. Besides, I'm not originally from this world. There is no one I can trust... No, there is one person.
"Also, it's better to refrain from publicly disclosing Louise's ability to use healing magic. As you know, healers are highly valuable. If it becomes public knowledge that Louise can use healing magic, there may be a struggle for her to be forced heal someone. It would be best to keep it hidden at least until Louise can assert her own will," Lidell advises.
Speaking of which, Lysette mentioned that if she could use healing magic, there would have been a different path for her. The Bearded Guy doesn't have anyone who can use healing magic. Even at the Adventurers Guild, I've never seen anyone who can use healing magic. Perhaps I was carrying over my knowledge from manga and light novels in my original world, assuming that healing magic was common.
"Listening to Lidell's words, I can only think of one possible solution."
"I don't want to hear that solution, if possible."
He doesn't want to hear it. But I want to say it.
"There's one person I know who is aware that Louise can use healing magic, and I trust them."
"I also know one person, but I wish it could be someone different."
Finding someone who fits those conditions won't be easy.
"Lidell, please give up."
"I guess it would turn out this way. When I first received the consultation, I had a feeling it would end up like this."
Is that so?
I simply organized my thoughts following Lidell's guidance. But when it came to Louise, I had already decided to consult Lidell from the beginning. Perhaps deep down, I had already made up my mind to rely on Lidell.
"I think it would be best for you to entrust Louise to me, at least formally. When Louise becomes capable of deciding her own way of life, having served in a noble household will work in her favor."
I see. It's true that having served in a prestigious place could be an appealing point.
"Besides, I don't want to imagine what kind of negative attention it would bring if Akito, at the same age, were to have a girl as his slave. In that regard, being a noble works in my favor."
When I objectively think about the situation, I realize that it's unthinkable for a commoner child to have a slave. I felt a sense of taboo when I was called "Master" earlier.
"The problem lies in Louise's feelings. No matter how good we think it is for her, she might dislike it. Did Louise say anything?"
I told Lidell about my conversation with Louise.
"So, Louise wants to go together. Does that mean she wants to become an adventurer?"
It's impossible for a girl her age to become an adventurer. Well, if we try our best, maybe it could work.
"Akito, just because you can do it doesn't mean Louise can. It's natural if she can't do it."
"We could take her hunting once and let her experience the reality. It might make her willingly choose a different way of life."
I remember that at first, it was mentally difficult for me to kill living creatures, and just the sight of blood and flesh made me nauseous. Wait... Louise was the one who skinned the wolf fur for me. I wonder if she's surprisingly fine with it.
"For now, let's observe the situation for a few days. We'll need to prepare the necessary daily supplies for an additional person. She probably doesn't have any extra clothes or anything."
"Akito, after we do the necessary shopping tomorrow, let's register her at the Adventurer's Guild. Even if it's just an F-rank adventurer, having achievements makes it easier to receive requests. You might have unexpected aptitude for it too."
Aptitude, huh? It might be good that I don't have aversion to blood, meat, or corpses, at least within a certain range. Even if I can't openly use healing magic, it should be a very effective ability. I'm starting to feel like I can achieve self-sufficiency through hunting within my own means of protection.
In the end, I've only decided three things about Louise.
First, she will become Lidell's slave through a contract, but the responsibility will lie with me.
Second, we will keep the knowledge of her healing magic hidden for a while.
Third, we will take her hunting to confirm if her thoughts will change.
When I returned to the inn, I informed Louise about the decisions Lidell and I had made.
Louise seemed to have her own thoughts about it, but for now, she was worried about whether she could accompany us on the hunt. However, she agreed to go hunting with us.
Tonight, for the first time in three days, I felt the comfort of the bed and quickly fell asleep. Of course, there was nothing typical of adolescence happens.